Effects of child abuse on academic achievements and social competence of Nigerian children

By Kaanti Ernen

Child abuse simply means any act or inaction by an individual that is capable of emotionally or physically affecting a child in a negative way immediately or subsequently. 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Child maltreatmen/abuse is the abuse and neglect and negligence that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses the term child maltreatment to refer to both acts of commission (abuse), which include “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm”. 

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From the forefront, it could be established that, child abuse is conceptually and practically different from training or disciplining a child as may be misconstrued by some people. 

This child maltreatment according to WHO has enormous immediate and long-term repercussions. Beyond death, physical injury and disability, violence as a form of abuse on a schild can lead to stress that impairs brain development and damages the nervous and immune systems. This in turn is associated with delayed cognitive development, poor school performance and dropout, mental health problems, suicide attempts, increased health-risk behaviours, revictimization and the perpetration of violence.

Regratably, the hydra-headed monster (child abuse) as hackneyed in our society today with its practice keeps rearing its ugly head and is menacingly becoming a commonplace in  almost all Nigerian homes with thousands, if not millions, of Nigerian children harvesting effect with its sour and bitter taste combined.  It seems very crucial to know that some of these children are either abused by their very parents, guardians or the socalled care givers in whose care these children happen to be as a result of various circumstances. 

On whatever account that these children come into the custody of these abusers, the questions remain: “Do the perpetrators of this vicious act of child abuse in Nigeria know when they are abusing a child? Are they aware of the attendant irreversible consequences the act  may bring on the academic achievement and social competence of the said child?

When l was privileged to add a voice to the existing voices concerning child abuse in this art form using this scarce platform,  my interest was not just to assemble the findings of scholars about child abuse in order to substantiate my argument about the matter. Why, because,  the word ” abuse” alone speaks volumes about the phrase. To collect statistics of children who have been abused in Nigeria as recorded by agencies was not also of much importance to me because it was just like stating the obvious. On that ground, piling up media reports on instances of children bathed in accid, pressed with hot irons, beaten to point of comatos, and starving or being captured on cemeras as they hawk peanuts and water during school hours was not important to mee too. Besides, the article is about Nigeria and for those who care about Nigeria and if any one who claims to care about Nigeria is waiting for statistical evidence to be convinced that children are abused in this part of the world then that person is worse than an infidel.

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Guided by the above mentality,  I decided to speak mostly from a vantage point allowing the reader to engage in a judgemental readership as we reason along the matter. I will like to share a story of a young girl, a girl of about sixteen years whom a friend happened to meet at one of the motor parks in Nigeria. According to the friend, he (the friend) was sitting in a buss waiting to travel to another part of the country when this girl who was hawking sachet water came and requested some money from him to buy stockings.  As he told the story, “lookingg at her appearance, you will quickly understandand that this girl was disinherited and was channelled into so called money making”. One may ask, how can you justify a case in which a child is generatting income and does not worth a pair of stockings even at the peril of their education?

We have cases where some of these children are denied proper learning facilities, being driven away from school on the basis of non payment of tuition fees,  sexually and ritualistically falling prey of people who enticed them with money, abused by teachers, sexually harassed by the so called care givers, inundated and over stretched with house choes to a point they dont have time to read or attend to school activities. We also have such children arbitrarily shouted at  even on trivial issues as well poor clothing.

This child abuse is also seen in stereotypes against the child as being unintelligent as a result of where they are coming from, branded as witches and wizards, baseless accusations of stealling among what have you.

It feels highly dispirited to know that,  such treatments on a child as these, more often than not, have irrevocable effect on the child.

Research shows that cildren may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical problems as a result of being harmed, including: low self esteem, increased fear, guilt and self-blame, distrust of adults or difficulty in forming relationships with others, disrupted attachments with those who are meant to keep them safe  mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorders, self-harming or suicidal thoughts, learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development, developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments, permanent physical injuries or death, violent cum aggressive or criminal behaviour or other behavioural problems, drug and alcohol abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour. Dear soul brother, sister, fathers, mothers uncles  and fiends, these desaster is subvertable.

The good news is that, United Nations Convention on the Rights of child Convention (CRC) 2013, in response to the extent and intensity of violence exerted on children put way forward measures to massively strengthen and expand the struggle to effectively put an end to these practices which jeopardize children’s development and societies’ potential non violent conflict resolution.

These measures as contained article 19 of the (CRC) 2013 states that: Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or Exploitation , including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian (s) or any other person who has the care of the child .

Such protective measures according to CRC should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child as well as for other forms of prevention and fo identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

It has now become critically imperative to,  as individuals, associations and groups, to step our games up against this ill wind that is blowing our society no good. Like it is said, the future belongs to the younger ones or is the Nigerian soceity now bent on distroying the fragile but delecious future as entrusted to the children by nature in its infinite wisdom?

While the mass media as the watch dog of the soceity can kinddle the media campaign against this dastardly act, we at individual level can achieve this child- abuse-free society through attitudinal renaissance and other interventions mechansims like reporting the act wherever it is seen to appropriate authorities embedded with child right protection like United Nations Interventions on Child Education Funds (UNICEF), the police and other related law enforcement agencies irrespective of how the perpetrator is highly placed.

The Nigeria government at all levels needs to stand firm and apparently firm against child abuse, not only by establishing agencies with punitive measures but also accelerating support for parents and caregivers by providing educational and life skills training support and economy strengthening schemes for families for childrens’ welfare. Well meaning non-governmental organisations can also join the strugle to illminating child abuse by joining forces with governmentment to support the mass media on the promotion of non-violent norms and values that are favourable for creating and sustaing safe environments for children. Like Loretta Liynch said “We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations.

Kaanti Ernen was born in 1988 to the family of Kaanti Tyokever in Mbavuur, Gambe Tiev, Logo LGA, Benue State. He holds diploma in mass communication at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo. He also holds Bachelors Degree in Arts in mass communication from the prestigious University of Nigrria Nsukka. He is a prolific writer of opinion articles, fiction and nonfiction books. He is the author of ‘Sour Taste in Neighbourhood’ — fiction and core  author of ‘Benue Our Pride’ — non-fiction. (Presently in Press).

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